Explication of John Updike "A&P"

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Elizabeth Jennings
English 1B
Mr. Fritz
February 19, 2013
An Explication of John Updike’s “A&P”
“The sheep pushing their carts down the aisle -- the girls were walking against the usual traffic (not that we have one-way signs or anything) -- were pretty hilarious. You could see them, when Queenie's white shoulders dawned on them, kind of jerk, or hop, or hiccup, but their eyes snapped back to their own baskets and on they pushed. I bet you could set off dynamite in an A & P and the people would by and large keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their lists and muttering "Let me see, there was a third thing, began with A, asparagus, no, ah, yes, applesauce!" or whatever it is they do mutter. But there was no doubt, this jiggled them. A few house-slaves in pin curlers even looked around after pushing their carts past to make sure what they had seen was correct”(20). The short story “A&P” dramatizes the conflict between conformity and non-conformity. In “A&P”, the narrator, Sammy, is watching three girls in bathing suits walk through the aisles of the store, interrupting the usual flow of traffic. Customers are caught off guard by the three girl’s “indecent” attire, and are unsure of how to respond to them. Sammy says, “The sheep pushing their carts down the aisle -- the girls were walking against the usual traffic (not that we have one-way signs or anything) but there was no doubt, this jiggled them. A few house-slaves in pin curlers even looked around after pushing their carts past to make sure what they had seen was correct”(20). Sammy is noticing the three girl’s refusal to go with the flow of the social norm and is admiring their courage because after all “we don’t have one-way signs or anything” (20).

The A&P store as the setting of this story is a symbol of society. This A&P society has the everyday characters, such as the “The Witch” who cash register watches, “The Sheep” Stokesie, and Lengel. “The Witch” is a...
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